Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS
Under other circumstances I should think it a special privilege to meet with your reverence, but above all now, when the business which brings us together is of such great importance. But so much of my illness as still clings to me is enough to prevent my stirring ever so short a distance. I tried to drive as far as the martyrs2 and had a relapse almost into my old state. You must therefore forgive me. If the matter can be put off for a few days, I will, by God’s grace join you, and share your anxieties. If the business presses, do, by God’s help, what has to be done; but reckon me as present with you and as participating in your worthy deeds. May you, by the grace of the Holy One, be preserved to God’s Church, strong and joyous in the Lord, and praying for me.
To the bishops of the sea coast.2
I Have had a strong desire to meet you, but from time to time some hindrance has supervened and prevented my fulfilling my purpose. I have either been hindered by sickness, and you know well how, from my early manhood to my present old age, this ailment has been my constantcompanion, brought up with me, and chastising me, by the righteous judgment of God, Who ordains all things in wisdom; or by the cares of the Church, or by struggles with the opponents of the doctrines of truth). [Up to this day I live in much affliction and grief, having the feeling present before me, that you are wanting to me. For when God tells me, who took on Him His sojourn in the flesh for the very purpose that, by patterns of duty, He might regulate our life, and might by His own voice announce to us the Gospel of the kingdom,—when He says, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another,’ and whereas the Lord left His own peace to His disciples as a farewell gift,3 when about to complete the dispensation in the flesh, saying, ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give you,’ I cannot persuade myself that without love to others, and without, as far as rests with me, peaceableness towards all, I can be called a worthy servant of Jesus Christ. I have waited a long while for the chance of your love paying us a visit. For ye are not ignorant that we, being exposed to all, as rocks running out in the sea, sustain the fury of the heretical waves, which, in that they break around us, do not cover the district behind. I say “we” in order to refer it, not to human power, but to the grace of God, Who, by the weakness of men shows His power, as says the prophet in the person of the Lord, ‘Will ye not fear Me, who have placed the sand as a boundary to the sea?’ for by the weakest and most contemptible of all things, the sand, the Mighty One has bounded the great and fall sea. Since, then, this is our position, it became your love to be frequent in sending true brothers to visit us who labour with the storm, and more frequently letters of love, partly to confirm our courage, partly to correct any mistake of ours. For we confess that we are liable to numberless mistakes, being men, and living in the flesh.]
2. But hitherto, very honourable brethren, you have not given me my due; and this for two reasons. Either you failed to perceive the proper course; or else, under the influence of some of the columnies spread abroad about me, you did not think me deserving of being visited by you in love. Now, therefore, I myself take the initiative. I beg to state that I am perfectly ready to rid myself, in your presence, of the charges urged against me, but only on condition that my revilers are admitted to stand face to face with me before your reverences. If I am convicted, I shall not deny my error. You, after the conviction, will receive pardon from the Lord for withdrawing yourselves from the communion of me a sinner. The successful accusers, too, will have their reward in the publication of my secret wickedness. If, however, you condemn me before you have the evidence before you, I shall be none the worse, barring the loss I shall sustain of a possession I hold most dear—your love: while you, for your part, will suffer the same loss in losing me, and will seem to be running counter to the words of the Gospel: “Doth our law judge any man before it hear him?”4 The reviler, moreover, if he adduce no proof of what he says, will be shewn to have got nothing from his wicked language but a bad name for himself. For what name can be properly applied to the slanderer5 except that which he professes to bear by the very conduct of which be is guilty? Let the reviler, therefore, appear not as slanderer,6 but as accuser; nay, I will not call him accuser, I will rather regard him as a brother, admonishing in love, and producing conviction for my amendment. And you must not be hearers of calumny, but triers of proof. Nor must I be left uncured, because my sin is not being made manifest.
[3. Let not this consideration influence you. ‘We dwell on the sea, we are exempt from the sufferings of the generality, we need no succour from others; so what is the good to us of foreign communion?’ For the same Lord Who divided the islands from the continent by the sea, bound the island Christians to those of the continent by love. Nothing, brethren, separates us froth each other, but deliberate estrangement. We have one Lord, one faith, the same hope. The hands need each other; the feet steady each other. The eyes possess their clear apprehension from agreement. We, for our part, confess our own weakness, and we seek your fellow feeling. For we are assured, that though ye are not present in body, yet by the aid of prayer, ye will do us much benefit in these most critical times. It is neither decorous before men, nor pleasing to God, that you should make avowals which not even the Gentiles adopt, which know not God. Even they, as we hear, though the country they live in be sufficient for all things, yet, on account of the uncertainty of the future, make much of alliances with each other, and seek mutual intercourse as being advantageous to them. Yet we, the sons of fathers who have laid down the law that by brief notes the proofs of communion should be carried about from one end of the earth to the other, and that all should be citizens and familiars with all, now sever ourselves from the whole world, and are neither ashamed at our solitariness, nor shudder that on us is fallen the fearful prophecy of the Lord, ‘Because of lawlessness abounding, the love of the many shall wax cold.’]
4. Do not, most honourable brethren, do not suffer this. Rather, by letters of peace and by salutations of love, comfort me for the past. You have made a wound in my heart by your former neglect. Soothe its anguish, as it were, by a tender touch. Whether you wish to come to me, and examine for yourselves into the truth of what you hear of my infirmities, or whether by the addition of more lies my sins are reported to you to be yet more grievous, I must accept even this. I am ready to welcome you with open hands and to offer myself to the strictest test, only let love preside over the proceedings. Or if you prefer to indicate any spot in your own district to which I may come and pay you the visit which is due, submitting myself, as far as may be, to examination, for the healing of the past, and the prevention of slander for the future, I accept this. Although my flesh is weak, yet, as long as I breathe, I am responsible for the due discharge of every duty which may tend to the edification of the Churches of Christ. Do not, I beseech you. make light of my entreaty. Do not force me to disclose my distress to others. Hitherto, brethren, as you are well aware, I have kept my grief to myself, for I blush to speak of your alienation from me to those of our communion who are at a distance. I shrink at once from paining them and from gratifying those who hate me. I alone am writing this now; but I send in the name of all the brethren in Cappadocia, who have charged me not to employ any chance messenger, but some one who, in case I should, from my anxiety not to be too prolix, leave out any points of importance, might supply them with the intelligence wherewith God has gifted him. I refer to my beloved and reverend fellow presbyter Petrus. Welcome him in love, and send him forth to me in peace, that he may be a messenger to me of good things).
To the Neocaesarcans.2
1). [There has been a long silence on both sides, revered and well-beloved brethren, just as if there were angry feelings between us. Yet who is there so sullen and implacable towards the party which has injured him, as to lengthen out the resentment which has begun in disgust through almost a whole life of man?] This [is happening in our case, no just occasion of estrangement existing, as far as I myself know, but on the contrary, there being, from the first, many strong reasons for the closest friendship and unity. The greatest and first is this, our Lord’s command, pointedly saying, “By this shallall men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.”3 ] Again, the apostle clearly sets before us the good of charity where he tells us that love is the fulfilling of the law;4 and again where he says that charity is a good thing to be preferred to all great and good things, in the words. “Though I speak with tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burnt and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”5 Not that each of the points enumerated could be performed without love, but that the Holy One wishes, as He Himself has said, to attribute to the commandment super-eminent excellency by the figure of hyperbole.6
2). [Next, if it tend much towards intimacy to have the same teachers, there are to you and to me the same teachers ofGod’s mysteries, and spiritual Fathers, who from the beginning were the founders of your Church. I mean the great Gregory, and all who succeeding in order to the throne of your episcopate, like stars rising one after another, have tracked the same course, so as to leave the tokens of the heavenly polity most clear to all who desire them.] And if natural relationships are not to be despised, but are greatly conducive to unbroken union and fellowship, these rights also exist naturally for you and me). [Why is it, then, O venerable among cities, for through you I address the whole city, that no civil writing comes from you, no welcome voice, but your ears are open to those who aim at slander?] I am therefore the more bound to groan, the more I perceive the end they have in view. There is no doubt as to who is the originator of the slander.7 He is known by many evil deeds, but is best distinguished by this particular wickedness, and it is for this reason that the sin is made his name.8 But you must pat up with my plain speaking. You have opened both ears to my slanderers. You heartily welcome all you hear without any enquiry. Not one of you distinguishes between lies and truth. Who ever suffered for lack of wicked accusations when struggling all alone? Who was ever convicted of lying in the absence of his victim? What plea does not sound plausible to the hearers when the reviler persists that such and such is the case, and the reviled is neither present nor hears what is urged against him? Does not even the accepted custom of this world teach you, in reference to these matters, that if any one is to be a fair and impartial hearer, he must not be entirely led away by the first speaker, but must wait for the defence of the accused, that so truth may be demonstrated by a comparison of the arguments on both sides? “Judge righteous judgment.”9 This precept is one of those most necessary for salvation.
3. When I say this I am not forgetful of the words of the Apostle, who fled from human tribunals and reserved the defence of all his life for the unerring judgment seat, when he said, “With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man’s judgment.”10 Your ears have been preoccupied by lying slanders, slanders that have touched my conduct, slanders that have touched my faith in God. Nevertheless, knowing, as I do, that three persons at once are injured by the slanderer, his victim, his hearer, and himself; as to my own wrong, I would have held my tongue, be sure; not because I despise your good opinion,(how could I, writing now as I do and earnestly pleading as I do that I may not lose it?) but because I see that of the three sufferers the one who is least injured is myself. It is true that I shall be robbed of you, but you are being robbed of the truth, and he who is at the bottom of all this is parting me from you, but he is alienating himself from the Lord, inasmuch as no one can be brought near to the Lord by doing what is forbidden. Rather then for your sakes than for mine, rather to rescue you from unendurable wrong am I pleading. For who could suffer a worse calamity than the loss of the most precious of all things, the truth?
4). [What say I, brethren? Not that I am a sinless person; not that my life is not full of numberless faults. I know myself; and indeed I cease not my tears for my sins, if by any means I may be able to appease my d, and to escape the punishment threatened against them. But this I say: let him who: judges me, hunt for motes in my eye, if he can say that his own is clear.] I own, brethren, that I need the care of the sound and healthy, and need much of it. If he cannot say that it is clear, and the clearer it is the less will he say so—(for it is the part of the perfect not to exalt themselves; if they do they will certainly come under the charge of the pride of the Pharisee, who, while justifying himself, condemned the publican) let him come with me to the physician let him not “judge before the time until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts.”11 Let him remember the words. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; “12 and “Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.”13 [In a word, brethren, if my offences admit of cure, why does not such an one obey the teacher of the Churches, “Reprove, exhort, rebuke”?14 If, on the other hand, my iniquity he past cure, why does he not withstand me to the face, and, by publishing my transgressions, deliver the Churches from the mischief which I bring on them?] Do not put up with the calumny uttered against me within the teeth.15 This is the abuse which any slave-girl from the grindstone might utter; this is the kind of fine shewing-off you might expect from any street vagabond; their tongues are whetted for any slander. But [there are bishops; let appeal be made to them. There is a clergy in each of God’s dioceses;16 let the most eminent be assembled. Let whoso will, speak freely, that I may have to deal with a charge, not a slander.] Let my secret wickedness be brought into full view; let me no longer be hated, but admonished as a brother. It is more just that we sinners should be pitied by the blessed and the sinless, than that we should be treated angrily.
5). [If the fault be a point of faith, let the document be pointed out to me. Again, let a fair and impartial inquiry be appointed. Let the accusation be read; let it be brought to the test, whether it does not arise from ignorance in the accuser, not from blame in the matter of the writing. For right things often do not seem such to those who are deficient in accurate judgment. Equal weights seem unequal when the arms of the balance are of different sizes.] Men whose sense of taste is destroyed by sickness, sometimes think honey sour. A diseased eye does not see many things which do exist, and notes many things which do not exist. The same thing frequently takes place with regard to the force of words, when the critic is inferior to the writer. The critic ought really to set out with much the same training and equipment as the author. A man ignorant of agriculture is quite incapable of criticising husbandry, and the distinctions between harmony and discord can only be adequately judged by a trained musician. But any one who chooses will set up for a literary critic, though he cannot tell us where he went to school, or how much time was spent in his education, and knows nothing about letters at all. I see clearly that, even in the case of the words17 of the Holy Spirit, the investigation of the terms is to be attempted not by every one, but by him who has the spirit of discernment, as the Apostle has taught us, in the differences of gifts;—“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits.”18 If, therefore, my gifts are spiritual, he who wishes to judge them must shew proof of his own possession of the gift of “discerning of spirits.” If, on the contrary, as he calumniously contends, my gifts are of the wisdom of this world, let him shew that he is an adept in this world’s wisdom, and I will submit myself to his verdict. And [let no one suppose that I am making excuses to evade the charge. I put it into your hands, dearest brethren, to investigate for yourselves the points alleged against me. Are you so slow of intelligence as to be wholly dependent upon advocates for the discovery of the truth? If the points in question seem to you to be quite plain of themselves, persuade the jesters to drop the dispute). [If there be anything you do not understand, put questions to me, through appointed persons who will do justice to me; or ask of me explanations in writing. And take all kinds of pains that nothing may be left unsifted.
6. What clearer evidence can there be of my faith, than that I was brought up by my grandmother, blessed woman, who came from you? I mean the celebrated Macrina who taught me the words of the blessed Gregory; which, as far as memory had preserved down to her day, she cherished herself. while she fashioned and formed me, while yet a child, upon the doctrines of piety. And when I gained the capacity of thought, my reason being matured by full age, I travelled over much sea and land, and whomsoever I found walking in the rule of godliness delivered, those I set down as fathers,] and made them my soul’s guides in my journey to God. And up to this day, by the grace of Him who has called me in His holy calling to the knowledge of Himself, I know of no doctrine opposed to the sound teaching having sunk into my heart; nor was my soul ever polluted by the ill-famed blasphemy of Arius. If I have ever received into communion any who have come from that teacher, hiding their unsoundness deep within them, or speaking words of piety, or, at any rate. not opposing what has been said by me, it is on these terms that I have admitted them; and I have not allowed my judgment concerning them to rest wholly with myself, but have followed the decisions given about them by our Fathers. For after receiving the letter of the very blessed Father Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, which I hold in my hand, and shew to any one who asks, wherein he has distinctly declared that any one expressing a wish to come over from the heresy of the Arians and accepting the Nicene Creed. is to be received without hesitation and difficulty, citing in support of his opinion the unanimous assent of the bishops of Macedonia and of Asia; I, considering myself bound to follow the high authority of such a man and of those who made the rule, and with every desire on my own part to win the reward promised to peacemakers, did enroll in the lists of communicants all who accepted that creed.
7). [The fair thing would be to judge of me, not from one or two who do not walk uprightly in the truth, but from the multitude of bishops throughout the world, connected with me by the grace of the Lord. Make enquiries of Pisidians, Lycaonians, Isaurians, Phrygians of both provinces, Armenians your neighbours, Macedonians, Achaeans. Illyrians, Gauls. Spaniards, the whole of Italy, Sicilians, Africans, the healthy part of Egypt, whatever is left of Syria; all of whom send letters to me, and in turn receive them from me.] From these letters, alike from all which are despatched from them. and from all which go out from us to them, you may learn that we are all of one mind, and of one opinion). [Whoso shuns communion with me, it cannot escape your accuracy, cuts himself off from the whole Church. Look round about, brethren, with whom do you hold communion? If you will not receive it from me, who remains to acknowledge you? Do not reduce me to the necessity of counselling anything unpleasant concerning a Church so dear to me.] There are things now which I hide in the bottom of my heart, in secret groaning over and bewailing the evil days in which we live, in that the greatest Churches which have long been united to one another in brotherly love, now, without any reason, are in mutual opposition. Do not, oh! do not, drive me to complain of these things to all who are in communion with me. Do not force me to give utterance to words which hitherto I have kept in check by reflection and have hidden in my heart. Better were it for me to be removed and the Churches to be at one, than that God’s people should suffer such evil through our childish ill-will). [Ask your fathers, and they will tell you that though our districts were divided in position, yet in mind they were one, and were governed by one sentiment. Intercourse of the people was frequent; frequent the visits of the clergy; the pastors, too, had such mutual affection, that each used the other as teacher and guide in things pertaining to the Lord.]
To Elpidius the bishop.2
Once again I have started the well-beloved presbyter Meletius to carry my greeting to you. I had positively determined to spare him, on account of the weakness which he has voluntarily brought upon himself, by bringing his body into subjection for the sake of the gospel of Christ. But I have judged it fitting to salute you by the ministry of such men as he is, able to supply of themselves all the shortcomings of my letter, and to become, alike to writer and recipient, a kind of living epistle. I am also carrying out the very strong wish, which he has always had, to see your excellency, ever since he has had experience of the high qualities you possess. So now I have besought him to travel to you, and through him I discharge the debt of the visit I owe you, and beseech you to pray for me and for the Church of God, that the Lord may grant me deliverance from the injuries of the enemies of the Gospel, and to pass my life in peace and quiet. Nevertheless. if you in your wisdom, think it needful that we should travel to the same spot, and meet the rest of oar fight honourable brother bishops of the sea board regions, do you yourself point out a suitable place and time where and when this meeting may take place. Write to our brethren to the end that each and all may, at the appointed time, leave the business they may have in hand, and may be able to effect something for the edification of the Churches of God, do away with the pain which we now suffer from our mutual suspicions, and establish love, without which the Lord Himself has ordained that obedience to every commandment must be of none effect.
To Elpidius the bishop. Consolatory.
Now, most of all, do I feel my bodily infirmity, when I see how it stands in the way of my soul’s good. Had matters gone as I hoped, I should not now be speaking to you by letter or by messenger, but should in my own person have been paying the debt of affection and enjoying spiritual advantage face to face. Now, however, I am so situated that I am only too glad if I am able even to move about in my own country in the necessary visitation of parishes in my district. But may the Lord grant to you both strength and a ready will, and to me, in addition to my eager desire, ability to enjoy your society when I am in the country of Comana. I am afraid lest your domestic trouble may be some hindrance to you. For I have learnt of your affliction in the loss of your little boy. To a grandfather his death cannot but be grievous. On the other hand to a man who has attained to so high a degree of virtue, and alike from his experience of this world and his spiritual training knows what human nature is, it is natural that the removal of those who are near and dear should not he wholly intolerable. The Lord requires from us what He does not require from every one. The common mass of mankind lives by habit, but the Christian’s rule of life is the commandment of the Lord, and the example of holy men of old, whose greatness of soul was, above all, exhibited in adversity. To the end, then, that you may yourself leave to them that come after you an example of fortitude and of genuine trust in what we hope for, show that you are not vanquished by your grief, but are rising above your sorrows, patient in affliction, and rejoicing in hope. Pray let none of these things be a hindrance to our hoped for meeting. Children, indeed, are held blameless on account of their tender age; but you and I are under the responsibility of serving the Lord, as He commands us, and in all things to be ready for the administration of the affairs of the Churches. For the due discharge of that duty the Lord has reserved great rewards for faithful and wise stewards.
To the clergy of Neocaesarea.
You all concur in hating me. To a man you have followed the leader of the war against me.2 I was therefore minded to say not a word to any one. I determined that I would write no friendly letter; that I would start no communication, but keep my sorrow ill silence to myself. Yet it is wrong to keep silence in the face of calumny; not that by contradiction we may vindicate ourselves, but that we may not allow a lie to travel further and its victims to be harmed. I have therefore thought it necessary to put this matter also before you all, and to write a letter to you, although, when I recently wrote to all the presbyterate in common, you did not do me the honour to send me a reply. Do not, my brethren, gratify the vanity of those who are filling your minds with pernicious opinions. Do not consent to look lightly on, when, to your knowledge, God’s people are being subverted by impious teaching. None but Sabellius the Libyan3 and Marcellus the Galatian4 have dared to teachand write what the leaders of your people are attempting to bring forward among you as their own private discovery. They are making a great talk about it, but they are perfectly powerless to give their sophisms anti fallacies even any colour of truth. In their harangues against me they shrink from no wickedness, and persistently refuse to meet me. Why? Is it not because they are afraid of being convicted for their own wicked opinions? Yes; and in their attacks upon me they have become so lost to all sense of shame as to invent certain dreams to my discredit while they falsely accuse my teaching of being pernicious. Let them take upon their own heads all the visions of the autumn months; they can fix no blasphemy on me, for in every Church there are many to testify to the truth.
2. When they are asked the reason for this furious and truceless war, they allege psalms and a kind of music varying from the custom which has obtained among you, and similar pretexts of which they ought to be ashamed. We are, moreover, accused because we maintain men in the practice of true religion who have renounced the world and all those cares of this life, which the Lord likens to thorns that do not allow the word to bring forth fruit. Men of this kind carry about in the body the deadness of Jesus; they have taken up their own cross, and are followers of God. I would gladly give my life if these really were my faults, and if I had men with me owning me as teacher who had chosen this ascetic life. I hear that virtue of this kind is to be fount now in Egypt, and there are, peradventure some men in Palestine whose conversation follows the precepts of the Gospel. I am told too that some perfect and blessed men are to be found in Mesopotamia. We, in comparison with the perfect, are children. But if women also have chosen to live the Gospel life, preferring virginity to wedlock. leading captive the lust of the flesh, and living in the mourning which is called blessed, they are blessed in their profession wherever they are to be found. We, however, have few instances of this to show, for with us people are still in an elementary stage and are being gradually brought. to piety. If any charges of disorder are brought against the life of our women I do not undertake to defend them. One thing, however, I do say and that is, that these bold hearts, these unbridled mouths are ever fearlessly uttering what Satan, the father of lies, has hitherto I been unable to say. I wish you to know that we rejoice to have assemblies of bothmen and women, whose conversation is inheaven and who have crucified the flesh with, the affections and lusts thereof; they take no thought for food and raiment, but remain undisturbed beside their Lord, continuing night and day in prayer. Their lips speak not of the deeds of men: they sing hymns to God continually, working with their own hands that they may have to distribute to them that need. 3. Now as to the charge relating to thesinging of psalms, whereby my calumniatorsspecially scare the simpler folk, my reply is this. The customs which now obtain are agreeable to those of all the Churches of God. Among us the people go at night to the house of prayer, and, in distress, affliction, and continual tears, making confession to God, at last rise from their prayers and begin to sing psalms. And now, divided into two parts, they sing antiphonally with one another, thus at once confirming their study of the Gospels,5 and at the same time producing for themselves a heedful temper and a heart free from distraction. Afterwards they again commit the prelude of the strain to one, and the rest take it up; and so after passing the night in various psalmody, praying at intervals as the day begins to dawn, all together, as with one voice and one heart, raise the psalm of confession to the Lord, each forming for himself his own expressions of penitence. If it is for these reasons that you renounce me, you will renounce the Egyptians; you will renounce both Libyans, Thebans, Palestinians, Arabians, Phoenicians, Syrians, the dwellers by the Euphrates; in a word all those among whom vigils, prayers, and common psalmody have been held in honour.
4. But, it is alleged, these practices were not observed in the time of the great Gregory. My rejoinder is that even the Litanies6 which you now use were not used in his time. I do not say this to find fault with you; for my prayer would be that every one of you should live in tears and continual penitence. We, for our part, are always offering supplication for our sins, but we propitiate our God not as you do, in the words of mere man, but in the oracles of the Spirit. And what evidence have you that this custom was not followed in the time of the great Gregory? You have kept none of his customs up to the present time.7 Gregory did not cover his head at prayer. How could he? He was a true disciple of the Apostle who says, “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth Iris head.”8 And “a man indeed ought not to cover his bead forasmuch as he is the image of God.”9 Oaths were shunned by Gregory, that pure soul, worthy of the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, content with yea and nay, in accordance with the commandment of the Lord Who said, “I say unto you swear not at all?”10 Gregory could not bear to call his brother a fool,11 for he stood in awe of the threat of the Lord. Passion, wrath, and bitterness never proceeded out of his mouth. Railing he hated, because it leads not to the kingdom of heaven. Envy and arrogance had been shut out of that guiltless sold. He would never have stood at the altar before being reconciled to his brother. A lie, or any word designed to slander any one, he abominated, as one who knew that lies come from the devil, and that the Lord will destroy all that utter a lie.12 If you have none of these things, and are clear of all, then are you verily disciples of the disciple of the Lord. if not, beware lest, in your disputes about the mode of singing psalms, you are straining at the gnat and setting at naught the greatest of the commandments.
I have been driven to use these expressions by the urgency of my defence, that you may be taught to cast the beam out of your own eyes before you try to remove other men’s motes. Nevertheless, I am conceding all, although there is nothing that is not searched into before God. Only let great matters prevail, and do not allow innovations in the fifth to make themselves heard. Do not disregard the hypostases. Do not deny the name of Christ. Do not put a wrong meaning on the words of Gregory. If you do so, as long as I breathe and have the power of utterance, I cannot keep silence, when I see souls being thus destroyed.
You have been long silent, though you have very great power of speech, and are well trained in the art of conversation and of exhibiting yourself by your eloquence. Possibly it is Neocaesarea which is the cause of your not writing to me. I suppose I must take it as a kindness if those who are there do not remember me, for, as I am informed by those who report what they hear, the mention made of me is not kind. You, however, used to be one of those who were disliked for my sake, not one of those who dislike me for the sake of others. I hope this description will continue to fit you, that wherever you are you will write to me, and will have kindly thoughts of me, if you care at all for what is fair and right. It is certainly fair that those who have been first to show affection should be paid in their own coin.
IT is your lot to share my distress, and to do battle on my behalf. Herein is proof of your manliness. God, who ordains our lives, grants to those who are capable of sustaining great fights greater opportunity of winning renown. You truly have risked your own life as a test of your valour in your friend’s behalf, like gold in the furnace. I pray God that other men may be made better; that you may remain what you are, and that you will not cease to find fault with me, as you do, anti to charge me with not writing often to you, as a wrong on my part which does you very great injury. This is an accusation only made by a friend. Persist in demanding the payment of such debts. I am not so very unreasonable in paying the claims of affection.
Basil: letters, hexaemeron - II. WORKS